“The president made his decision, consistent with his view that this was not a winnable war, to bring US troops home after 20 years of war,” White House press secretary Jen Psaki said Friday. “A big part of that decision was the fact that our troops run the risk of the Taliban shooting them by May 1st if we leave our troops there.”
Finally, American intelligence officials told Mr. Biden that the threat posed by al-Qaeda and the Islamic State to the United States’ home country had greatly decreased – and that it would likely take at least two years to re-establish.
To keep this threat at bay, the Pentagon has already deployed armed MQ-9 Reaper drones on bases in the Persian Gulf to keep watch. But without Afghan government forces and spies, finding enemy targets on the ground will be much harder and the risk of unintentional civilian casualties from American air strikes will increase, commanders warn.
The Biden government has pledged financial assistance to Mr. Ghani, including $ 266 million in humanitarian aid and $ 3.3 billion in security aid, as well as three million doses of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine and oxygen supplies. In Afghanistan, efforts to combat a third wave of the coronavirus have been hampered by fighting in the region.
A small security force from the embassy will also remain in Afghanistan.
The administration will also soon begin “relocating a group of interpreters and translators and other risk groups who have supported us,” Ms Psaki said on Friday. It later confirmed in a statement that those in the pipeline for visas but who had fled Afghanistan for fear of retaliation were still eligible.
But the White House is preparing for a long, difficult summer.
“You don’t fight and die with your Afghan partners for 20 years and then just pull the ground under their feet,” said Lisa Curtis, Senior Director for South and Central Asia at the National Security Council under the Trump administration. “Everyone understands the need to withdraw our troops, but it must also be done responsibly and in such a way that Afghans have a chance to fight.”
Zolan Kanno-Youngs and Eric Schmitt reported from Washington and Thomas Gibbons-Neff from Kabul, Afghanistan. Julian E. Barnes contributed the reporting from Washington.